Special Guest Party Tips!

I recently got a surprise email from Aimee Lyons of Diydarlin.com asking if she could write a guest blog entry offering up some tips, advice, and resources for planning and attending bachelorette and bachelor parties on a budget. Who am I to look gift words in the mouth? So here, from MIz Aimee Lyons, are some lovely pearls of pre-wedding wisdom:

Photo via Pixabay

6 Tips for Planning a Bachelorette Party Without Breaking the Budget

It’s always an honor to be asked to stand up for a friend on her wedding day. But between buying a bridesmaid dress, paying for travel, and springing for a gift, supporting a friend can quickly become an expensive, albeit important, endeavor–often costing upwards of $1,000.  Add planning a bachelorette party, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But with a little planning and organization, you can throw an unforgettable party without the hefty price tag. Here are six ways to cut down on cost without sacrificing quality.

1. Prioritize

What’s important to your bride? A scenic location? Great food? A unique experience? Determine her number one priority. Next, send out a text or email to guests and discuss budget. What is everyone willing to contribute? (No one should break the bank in order to celebrate their friend.)

After you’ve created a budget, decide where to delegate most of the funds. For example, you might be able to spring for an Airbnb in a scenic location, but compensate by cooking most of your meals in your rental. Alternatively, if visiting a five-star restaurant is important to your foodie bride to be, opt for upscale cuisine in town, but share a cab, and grab drinks at a less expensive bar afterterward.

2. DIY as much as possible

If you’re hosting a soiree yourself, invest in inexpensive, high-impact decorations like metallic balloons or tissue paper flowers. (You can re-create a variety of styles here.) The key here is to make the space seem meticulously dressed by creating a wall of color and texture.

For food, delegate a different dish to each bridesmaid. If you don’t have time to make something from scratch (-or spend a lot of time in the kitchen) pick up side dishes and pastries from a local grocery store and re-plate them on nicer china. No one will know the difference.  If you’re opting for a less formal affair, host a backyard potluck and have everyone bring their favorite dish along with the recipe. Arrange the recipes in a booklet and give it as a bridal gift.

3. Hunt for deals

Sign up for services that alert you of special deals, and be on the lookout for fun outings, like inexpensive spa packages and wine tastings.

Consider talking to those in charge of booking about group deals. If you’re bringing a company a lot of business, they might be willing to cut you a deal.

4. Plan a Low-Key Destination Party

A celebratory ladies’ weekend is the perfect excuse to take time off and relax from the daily hustle. And the more participants, the less expensive the trip. Take a poll and determine how many friends would be willing to invest in a destination soiree. If you have enough advanced notice, you can find flights for relatively cheap or book tickets on a charter bus.

In order to cut down on stress, make sure you’ve sorted out passports and hotel reservations well in advance. And make sure you, other bridesmaids, and the bride to be take care of home security measures before you leave, especially if you’re posting about your trip on social media.

5. Opt for Cheap and Cheerful 

There are plenty of activities to explore that are inexpensive, fun, and outside the box. Roller disco, paintball, and karaoke are all relatively budget-friendly crowd pleasers. Or if you’re throwing a party for a crowd of introverts or homebodies, suggest a Netflix marathon. You’ll finally have an excuse to watch every season of The West Wing while sipping specialty martinis.

6. Consider a Boozy, Fancy Brunch

Late-night events can seem vastly overrated when compared to mimosas, doughnuts, and hash browns. Gather your fellow bridesmaids and head out to your favorite breakfast spot. Dress up for the occasion in your favorite sundresses and see if the restaurant will allow you to bring your own cake. Or better yet, order a mountain of pancakes or waffles to share! You could do a similar thing at home and host an elegant brunch.

Expensive doesn’t always = meaningful

With some imagination, teamwork, and a few trips to your local craft store, your bride to be will feel like an absolute queen! Do you have any tips for planning a party on a budget? Sound off in the comments.

Officiant Rules To Live By

Paula and Jon got married at The Old Lantern in Charlotte. It was a beautiful breezy day in early June and the grounds couldn’t have been prettier. Not to mention the couple couldn’t have been any cuter!

Given that it was one of the first weddings of the season, I forgot my cardinal rule of outdoor weddings: Don’t wear lip gloss. It’s very thick and sticky and if a breeze blows, you’re gonna be left with large amounts of hair stuck to your mouth. And it’s not polite to do a back-of-the-hand-wipe in the middle of a ceremony.

This is also a good rule for brides, bridesmaids, makeup-loving grooms, flashy wedding attendants of various genders, and anyone whose hair runs the risk of adhering to their kisser!

It also reminded me of the value of microphones at a wedding. It’s certainly a conundrum for the budget-conscious couple, as renting a mic and audio equipment – even from your DJ – could cost you several hundred dollars.

But sound gets swallowed up by wind and trees and sky – or water, if you’re doing it ocean/lake/river-front. Even a big room can suck up sound more than you might expect, and basically, there’s no getting around the fact that folks are going to hear things much more easily with a mic than without one – particularly any guests older than 45 or so.

You might have noticed how a lot of people start using reading glasses in their 40s. Turns out the same thing happens with your hearing. While that happens naturally, most modern adults also have tinnitus and other forms of hearing loss related to ambient or recorded noise.

While I’m a trained actor, I have a naturally light and high voice, which doesn’t carry outdoors over great distances. So much for Shakespeare in the Park…

If you want a mic on the cheap, and find out that you have a friend who’s got some audio equipment you can borrow, you’ll need to make sure to have all the necessary cordage and/or batteries, and someone who can trouble-shoot if anything goes wrong at the last minute. This stuff is notoriously finicky, and while I’ve worked with sound equipment a lot, it’s been as someone with a mic attached to her, not as a tech.

By the way, when I googled “giant ear horn” for the image above, I also came up with this very creative guy:

EXCLUSIVE: Kala Kaiwi from Hawaii just returned from Milan, Italy where he was awarded a Guinness World Record for the largest non-surgically flesh tunnels or earlobes. At 109 mm, his earlobes are so large that one could fit a hand through. Kala was born in Hawaii and trained in Las Vegas in 1999 he moved back to Hawaii to open Sin City Body Modification and Tattoo shop.

Picture by: Tim Wright / Splash News

 

 

Money money money money money money money…

I just learned that most couples underestimate the cost of their wedding by 40%, and that the average wedding costs $28,000.

Seriously. This is not necessary. I mean, if you’ve got cash to burn, go ahead, knock yourself out. Let it be lobsters, Belgian lace, and ice sculptures all the way. Load up on monogrammed M&Ms for your guests, hire videographers to make a film-quality documentary of the day, and escape the party in a triple-decker tricked-out limo. But this is not necessary.

Celebrating your love and commitment with heart, beauty, and community doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You won’t be dishonoring yourselves or anyone else by not hiring gold-plated caterers.

I mean, I’ve been to those kinds of extravagant weddings, and they’re beautiful and impressive. But you can do just as well with a bunch of hay bales, a playlist, a potluck, and a cake baked by your best friend’s Mom. You won’t be any less married if you get your dress second hand and have it altered to fit. Heck, buy 3 wedding dresses at Goodwill for $150 and have a seamstress blend them together into an all-new creation!

Or make your own. This dress was made from plastic bags:
All I’m saying is what I say to high school writing students contemplating a career as a pen jockey. Don’t go into debt over this one. Get creative, ask for help, and remember that the most important thing is being lucky enough to find someone you want to spend your life with, and sharing that great fortune with the people you love the most.

The rest is just beautiful, fancy cake frosting.

Hearts Aflame, Minds Confused

Quote

H&A

Allison and Holly and baseball.

Following the Supreme Court decision allowing same sex marriage, my friends Allison and Holly have finally decided to get hitched, and asked me to perform the ceremony.

They’re both excited to be marrying each other, but more than a little conflicted about entering into the institution itself. As Holly said, “Let us know if you have any words of advice or things to keep in mind. We’re taking this very seriously yet we’re both ambivalent about marriage and not very sentimental, and I think that is bearing out in our approach.”

This is what I said in my reply:

I hear you about your conflicted feelings. I think the thing to remember is that this, first and foremost, is about the two of you. While you may not be very sentimental, you did happen to bump souls, and you’ve chosen, quite happily, to be together as lovers, friends, and life partners. You take joy in hanging out together. You have fun together. You adventure well together. You look awesome in tuxedos together. And you love each other in a way which gives you a universe of intimacy between you.

You’re both brilliant, powerful, seriously no bullshit women, and you have managed to entwine your lives in the same way that whole galaxies can interweave and pass through each other – with eddies of gravitational attraction and total transformation – while still remaining utterly intact. You have a Big Red Love, and that’s what really matters.

No, the government shouldn’t have Word One to say about the “legality” or “legitimacy” of relationships. Nor should any other kind of institution. No, our culture shouldn’t have its undies in a bunch about any kind of sexuality. It’s utterly absurd. But that’s just the way it is. Just like the fact that we have to pay taxes and allow ourselves to age and die with a modicum of grace, and accept the reality of Fox News and doofusy people like Scott Walker, Donald Trump, and the KKK.

Well, you know what? Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em all. Play the game. As Robert Heinlein said, rub blue mud in your bellybutton if that’s what everyone else is doing, and then get on with your lives. You’re at the fulcrum of a remarkable moment in our cultural history. And not only that, you’re an intimate part of it. So, enjoy it. Love each other. Eat cake. Party hard. And then get up in the morning and go do more great things.

It’s truly how I feel. Marriage is what happens between two people as they’re living their lives together, and very little to do with what happens at the altar, or as a consequence of a piece of paper being signed.

However it’s also a part of our culture and legal system and that emotional part of our lizard brain which barely knows from rational.

So, we follow our hearts and make our peace with the contradictions. Some of us make it legal. Some of us could not begin to be bothered.

But life is a hard and challenging and frequently struggle-filled business. Finding someone you love, who makes your toes curl and your heart sing and your life a little happier…that’s something to be celebrated one way or another. It just is.

Of What Cloth?

Dalai-Lama-Cardinal-1

Most of the time, when clients contact me, my “spiritual, but not religious” emphasis seems to make a lot of sense. Other times, folks have questions about what I am or am not willing to do in the context of their ceremony – or if there are state-level rules around what has to be in a ceremony.

In that vein, I got an email this morning from a prospective bride named Tracy asking me: “As far as religious aspects of the ceremony are there restrictions? I probably would just do a bible verse etc, but didn’t know if you couldn’t mention certain things or give a blessing.”

It’s a great question – and a terrific opportunity for me to clarify a number of things about Vermont’s wedding laws:

  • Vermont has no waiting period, blood test, or witness requirements.
  • Vermont has no rules about what can or cannot be in a ceremony – or if an actual ceremony even needs to happen. As long as the license is signed, you’re legally married.

As for MY rules, I really don’t have any. My job is to help couples have the wedding they want, and to serve that cause. I’ve had folks want a fully Bible-based ceremony, I’ve had people who didn’t even want God in the same zip code. I’ve had Pagans, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Sci-Fi Nerds (which, in fact, DOES count as a religion), Tea Aficionados (also a religion), Dog Lovers (DEFINITELY a religion) and pretty much every shade of what I’d call Tolerant Christian.

I’m pretty happy to read whatever couples want and include whatever rituals (or musical numbers) they feel they need to call their ceremony complete. The only place I think I’d draw the line would be ritual animal sacrifice and blood-drinking. So go forth and be who you are! I’m happy to come along for the ride!

Seasick At The Boat House

This is a performer named Seasick Steve. I thought it'd be nicer than a shot of someone yerking off the side of a boat.

This is a performer named Seasick Steve.
I thought it’d be nicer than a shot of someone yerking off the side of a boat.

I just performed the wedding for Steve and Jennie (names changed to protect the innocent and/or embarrassed) at the Burlington Boathouse.

The rehearsal was a pretty smooth affair with plenty of loving, friendly people and the kickiest little flower girl named Madeline – a child considerably older and wiser than her 4 years might belie.

Because the bride and groom were also on the young side (early 20s), before I left, I made a point of reminding them NOT to party too hard that night. I’ve had pasty, hung-over couples approach me at the altar before. And I can tell you that whether or not YOU think it’s obvious that your parents are holding up your rode-hard-and-put-away-wet self as you stagger down the aisle, for the rest of us, it is, shall I say, rather…apparent.

Anyway, they assured me they’d be well behaved. However, when I got to the Boathouse the next afternoon, Steve was off in a corner with his head between his knees. His team of Fellas claimed that someone must have slipped Steve a roofie the night before, as they really hadn’t had that much to drink.

I went over to Steve, who also swore up and down (or rather left and right – up and down were more than he could manage) that he hadn’t been on a pre-show bender.

Whether or not that was entirely the case, what was abundantly clear was that poor Steve was a raging bundle of nerves, and could barely sit up straight, much less pull his shaky, tuxedoed bod to his shiny, black-clad feet.

Kai, the Best Man, did a heroic job of trying to keep Steve focused, but Our Groom had the Requisite Hurl into a garbage can anyway. Actually, it was a recycling bin. Something about which the staff at the Boathouse were none too pleased.

I immediately directed Kai to go get some gum or breath mints, as there was no way I’d have Steve kissing Jennie with that particular mouth! Kai wisely managed to come back with gum and a whole bottle of Listerine, which seemed a sage and prudent choice.

As the Bridal Party and guests started arriving, Steve and I moved to the space near the altar, with Steve leaning against the railing, only making a feeble attempt at complete verticality. Conscious of issues around post-modern gender equity and personal identity, I didn’t want to tell him to Man Up, though I was sorely – sorely – tempted.

Finally, searching for some inspirational narrative that would bring Steve firmly to his feet, I said, “Look! Michael Jordan won an entire playoff game with the flu and a 105 degree fever. YOU can stand tall for six minutes and get married. Do it for Jennie.”

flu-game

To his credit, Steve did – quite literally – rise to the occasion, though his vows were spoken in a barely audible whisper. To be fair, though, so were Jennie’s.

Honestly, I think they were both just terrified. And I get it. When I got married I had all kinds of questions about what being married would mean. What would it mean to my career and my identity as a woman? What kind of choices would this most important choice lock me into making for years to come? I spent several weeks before my wedding completely flipping out. So, I have a great deal of sympathy for both of them. I really do.

All those nerves, all those doubts – they’re all completely normal and natural. Though I’d encourage anyone struggling with any level of premarital jitters – or concerns of any kind – to go get help. Don’t suffer through your fears alone. Find someone to talk to – preferably a counselor or other neutral party who doesn’t have a huge agenda about the outcome of this, or any other part of your life.

It’s really ok to be scared. But you don’t have to go it alone.

Kat From The Kingdom

A woman who, like me, loves boots, Ben&Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy ice cream, Jon Bon Jovi, and an excess of exclamation points!!!!

My awesome friend Kat at Kingdom Wedding Photography has been spending the slow winter season spiffing up her blog, and interviewing other wedding vendors about their business and experience.  This week, she was kind enough to interview me!  And she asked great questions, including:

What is your favorite thing about what you do?
I pretty much love everything about it. I adore meeting new people at such a significant moment in their lives. I enjoy making the process of putting together the ceremony as easy as possible. I really like going to places around the state that I never would have seen. I get a huge kick out of dressing up in the color scheme of each wedding (it’s the actor in me – I love costumes) and, of course, actually performing the ceremony. It’s all just a blast!

What do you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a good listener, so I can really take in what a couple wants for their ceremony. I’m a deft writer, so I can craft something that’s elegant, artful, meaningful, personal, and also funny. I know how to create sacred space without being too sentimental or sanctimonious about it. I’m a very experienced performer, so I know how to take the stage and run the show while still keeping each couple at the center of their own wedding. Plus, I just don’t get rattled. So no matter what happens – be it animals, babies, weather, in-laws, or the bride passing out – I can stay focused and in charge without turning anything into a crisis.

What’s the one thing you wish everyone knew about you or your business?
Ha! What a funny question. I’m not sure. Hire me and find out…

Read the whole interview here.

Respect The Bazooms

Strapless Bridesmaids

Ok, folks.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a big, bold statement about bridesmaid’s dresses.  In fact, not just a statement, I’m going to make a heartfelt plea: Brides, please don’t put your bridesmaids in strapless dresses!  PLEASE!

“Why,” you may ask, “the heck not?  What’s wrong with strapless dresses on my galz?  What has a strapless bridesmaid’s dress ever done to you?”

Look, here’s the deal.  If your bridesmaids are all built like the waifish examples in the photo above, and they have beautifully tailored, well-fitting dresses that they’re comfortable wearing and can move in without fear of any sort of wardrobe malfunction, then by all means, go ahead and stick your closest friends in what amounts to a very pretty fabric tube.

But the reality – one that I’ve witnessed over and over for years – is that most women in attendance do not look like these underfed, well-primped little babelets here. Most women look like…women! And most women have bodies which must be respected, and, more importantly, many of these women have sincerely bodacious bosoms which, in a strapless dress, are often barely contained, and frequently look like they’re about to leap clean out of the front of the frock and make a frantic break for freedom.

Conversely, if you have bridesmaids who are somewhat Breast Light, they have a tendency to act like there’s very little holding up their strapless dress, and that the garment might, at any moment, shimmy clean off their body and land in a pretty little glittery pool on the floor.

All this means that what I see, as maid after maid parades down the aisle, is a lot of twitching and fidgeting to make sure that the dress in question is still accurately in place, as well as a posture-busting epidemic of hunchy-shouldered Stances of Discomfort.

This is both a tough – and completely understandable – dilemma.  Few ladies these days actually learn how to sport this kind of elegant frockery, and the lack of experience in really WEARING a dress often shows.  But there’s no judgement here.  Honestly, it’s not just the occasional bridesmaid who suffers.

Years ago, I was an actor in New York understudying at a theater that did all classical plays.  The fun part about those kinds of shows is that the costumes are magnificent: corsets and petticoats and long trains and flouncy sleeves and highly elevated cleavage.  But you have to know how to wear this kind of stuff so that it doesn’t look like it’s wearing you – or worse, that you just don’t belong in the 18th century.

One night, after we second-stringers did our one test runthrough of the current show, the artistic director asked me where I was trained, and how I knew how to carry myself like an Italian courtesan of yore.  Apparently, he was getting a lot of young women coming through the door who would walk around like someone just randomly stuck them in their clothes without being able to carry the sartorial spirit of the age with them.

This is all to say that it’s not easy to carry off a really fancy dress under the best of circumstances.  And if it’s a dress that isn’t selected specifically for your body type, then you’re basically up chiffon creek.

My recommendation?  Pick your color and let your gals choose the style which suits them best.  They’re more likely to enjoy the dress – and maybe even wear it again in the future!  Honestly, it’s not going to ruin your photos to have one woman in an empire waist and another in spaghetti straps or halter style. You can even mix-and-match a bit.  I promise, it’ll look fabulous!

Weddings are all about love, and loving your friends means not asking them to spend money on and wear something which doesn’t make them feel totally delish.

Southern-weddings-Southern-wedding-ideas-mixed-bridesmaid-dresses-red-bridesmaid-dresses

Mix-and-Match

mix and match bridesmaid dresses

One Love

I got a call the other day from a woman in Texas named Melissa. She’s in a graduate program in mental health counseling, and she’s writing a research paper on gay marriage.

Melissa comes from a very conservative Christian family, has strong ideas about marriage, and for most of her life, her beliefs and values have run firmly in the direction of one man, one woman, no divorce.

And yet, she’s committed to being an effective counselor for everyone who comes to her door. She knows it’s her responsibility to open her mind and learn about people from other backgrounds and who live lives different from hers.

She came to me in my guise as a wedding officiant. Living in Vermont, of course, I do a large number of same sex marriages – in fact, I’d say they make up about 60% of my business.

I feel very strongly that legalizing same sex marriage is a social justice issue of the highest importance, and for me, ranks right up there with ensuring women’s reproductive rights and combatting climate change.

Melissa didn’t know this when she called, and she certainly walked away with an earful!

She asked some great questions that I’d never thought about before, like how I define the “sanctity of marriage.”  I told her there’s a vast range of marriage styles and marital traditions seen in the long history of humanity: monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, arranged marriages, political marriages, shotgun marriages – even an old Chinese custom of women technically marrying a dead man for the preservation of her property and independence.

Unfortunately, too often, the rules and laws of marriage have benefitted families, dynasties, businesses, and, of course, men, without any regard for the freedom, autonomy, or well-being of women.  And certainly, throughout the ages, many people, both men and women, have been stuck in marriages which should have ended long ago, but for the repressive laws of their societies and cultures.

So to my mind, upholding the sanctity of any marriage means adhering to the ground rules of that particular marriage, and those rules should be set by the couple themselves, and no one else.

Then she asked me the million dollar question: do I think gay marriage is any different from straight marriage. And it was clear she didn’t have a preconceived idea – she really wanted to know.

I said absolutely not. There is no difference whatsoever. Love is love. The joy of finding romance and partnership and making a long term commitment to building a life with someone shines the same way in everybody’s eyes. It’s a soul connecting to a soul and uniting formally in a manner which transforms the relationship – sometimes just legally, but more often in some charismatic, luminous, undefinable way. Gay or straight, the goal is the same: unity with the beloved.

After a few more questions, Melissa asked if I had anything more I wanted to say, and what came out of my mouth surprised us both. It’s an odd thing for a Wedding Officiant to admit, but honestly, I actually think the notion of marriage is a bunch of crap.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of ritual for life’s great moments, and I champion the psycho-spiritual value of formally uniting with another. After all, the truth is that long term relationships are hard work, and you need something to hang on to when things inevitably get rough. Formalizing commitment has great value.

However, the idea that an institution, be it a government or a religious body, has any right to define which marriages are legal and which are illegal is a bunch of sanctimonious, self-serving hogwash. Nobody, other than the people choosing to commit to each other, should decide what’s right and proper.

However, I’m not here to dismantle the system. Even I know how to pick my battles.

So, as long as people (of all stripes and persuasions) want to come to Vermont and get married, I am more than happy to serve.